Nittaya's Secret Kitchen is aptly named. It's a small, hidden restaurant behind a Starbucks in a tiny strip mall at Rampart and Lake Mead, with a dark, cozy, sleek little dining room and bar and a few tables sprinkled outside. An alfresco meal here is a surprising treat, pleasant despite what appears to be a parking lot view. Somehow the owners have twisted these ordinary surroundings into a refreshing, charming experience.
The menu is twisted in the same good way. The chef/owner also operates Jasmine Thai Gourmet, a standard neighborhood Thai eatery just a few miles east on Lake Mead. This new Secret Kitchen serves some of those standards, like stuffed chicken wings, coconut soup and several curries, but the real focus is on small plates — "Thai, tapas, wine" reads the sign. It's a concept guaranteed to pique the interest of Vegas foodies looking for that next suburban discovery. Well, here it is.
Nittaya Parawong may say they're Thai tapas, but plates here are really just a fun way to eat some offbeat dishes she's obviously having fun cooking. Your server may try to sell you on the "world-famous" spinach salad, crispy-tempura spinach leaves with ground chicken and shrimp and a spicy lime dressing. Spongy, tasty whitefish cakes, panko-breaded avocado, satay skewers and seared ahi tuna also live on this friendly selection of plates perfect for sharing.
Flank steak salad is as fine a version of the obligatory Thai beef salad as you'll find in Summerlin, with fresh veggies and tender grilled meat in that same lime dressing. There's a papaya salad with shrimp, tomatoes and peanuts. Several rice dishes are available. We loved the subtle, creamy emerald fried rice with green curry and basil.
The restaurant is still adjusting its menu, but it should keep the yellow curry chicken thighs with a sweet chili sauce, a simple yet rewarding plate of food. For entrees you won't find at your favorite Thai joint, consider trying a lamb chop with garlic and basil or a whole spice-rubbed game hen. For dessert, a sweet pumpkin-and-coconut pudding might hit the spot.